Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mission Trip Summary, Pt 1

Dear Parish Faithful,

Buenos Dias!


Having returned from a week at the Hogar San Rafael Ayau in Guatemala City, I would like to offer a summary of this year's Mission Team activities and experiences. Over-all, I can write assuredly that the entire trip was muy excellente. I believe that we maintained a good balance between our work project assignments, and accessibility - and thus fellowship - with the ninos, ninas and senoritas. Our (fearless) team leader, Presvytera Deborah, successfully combined the roles of keeping the team in good order, and acting with genuine maternal care for each member's well-being. Her experience with life at the Hogar and its particular "culture" were effective assets throughout the week. The task of further over-all supervision and the directing of each Mission Team to the Hogar belongs to Madre Ivonne. As always, it was a joy to work with her and simply spend some time with her, though her incredibly demanding schedule keeps her constantly on the move from one task to another - including the minor crises of each day. Any conversation that lasts over five minutes is invariably interrupted by a cell-phone call, or an approaching child, teacher, ninera, visitor, etc. with a new question or problem to be solved. The stamina and patience that all of this requires - let alone the ability to address and react to the multi-leveled day-to-day challenges - is staggering to contemplate.

Our Mission Team

On one level, our eleven-member Mission Team was not characterized by great diversity (we were all midwestern, white and Orthodox). However, we did have some real age-related diversity (to keep with the spirit of the times) that embraced some young members - one pre-teen and three teens; some "middle-aged" members; and a few "older" members. This works effectively on more than one level, not least of which are the different types of relationships the children can form within this wide range of age diversity. The Hogar children can enjoy the company of their North American peers; the big brother/big sister relationship with the next age-group up; and the maternal/paternal relationships with the older members. The team was thankfully marked by a spirit of cooperation and closeness as the week progessed. In short, we "got along." We did our best to have a Bible Study in the early evening, followed by an evaluation of the day and preparation for the day to come.

Work Assignments

One of the main goals of a Mission Team is to fulfill a work assignment that upgrades the facilities of the Hogar, beautifies the grounds and relieves the Hogar of the financial burdens such work entails. We had two work assignments: painting and landscaping. Presvytera Deborah thus created two groups for these twin tasks. We transferred the music room from one spot to another newly-prepared room; painted a very large room and then transferred the work shop machinery into that room. Landscaping entailed mowing, edging and planting. Luke Loboda was "awesome" in mowing the entire Hogar park and surrounding areas by himself. Actually, a third assignment was assisting with the children in the nursery - holding them, taking them for walks in the outdoors, playing on the swings, etc. This was done primarily by Anne, Anastacia and Alexandra Taylor (though Anastacia also helped in the painting). And a fourth assignment was helping the younger boys to swim. This was done by Luke Loboda and Anthony Jula from Columbus. This work is carried out within the framework of the liturgical cycle of daily Matins (7:00 a.m.) and Vespers (4:15 p.m.) I also celebrated a somewhat delayed Pentecost Liturgy for the Hogar on Tuesday morning.


Memorable highlights, chronologically listed, included: 1) A trip to the mall supervised by Anastasia Kostoff of our younger team members together with the older senoritas to see a film about the Jonas Brothers(?), sponsored by one of our parishioners. 2) Distribution of the special gifts for the senoritas in the beautiful setting of the Hogar park provided by our parish members. 3) A real "fiesta," with pinata, Mariachi band and dancing in honor of one of the Hogar school supervisor's fiftieth birthday. 4) A power-point presentation of our Mission Team members and the parish to a large group of the Hogar children. 5) A very exciting evening to see the Moscow circus(!) with our entire team and the senoritas, together with some of the other younger ninos and ninas. This was quite a night out! The Russian embassy in Guatemala provided the tickets for all of the Hogar children. (Madre Ines has established a good working relationship with the Russian embassy. In July she will be taking two former members of the Hogar family to Russia where they will study engineering in a five-year program. They will initially live in a monastic setting in and around Moscow). 6) A trip to the Holy Trinity monastery to greet Madres Ines and Maria, that began with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in the breathtakingly beautiful cathedral church there. This was followed by a day in Antigua to which we invited eight of the senoritas for some sight-seeing and the inevitable shopping. 7) A final pizza and coke party also sponsored by one of our parishioners.

Parish Donations

Monetary donations came from a wide range of sources: the wekly "basket by the Cross;" an Ice Cream Sundae Sale sponsored by the Church School; a baklava sale sponsored by members of St. Katherine's Sisterhood; specifically-designated donations for activities with the children or our work assignments; money left with Madre Ivonne for a future Fall event; and assorted miscellaneous donations from outside the parish. This all amounted to about $4,950.00!

In addition there were seven suitcases "stuffed" to over-capacity with new clothing, games, school-related items, domestic items, etc. In other words, we more than retained our "reputation" for genorosity to the Hogar and its children. The three other parishes represented on our Mission Team also brought further generous monetary and item donations. Madre Ines insisted that I express her deep appreciation for these gifts and donations and our continuing support of the "abandoned, abused, and orphaned children" of the Hogar.

To be concluded with a few closing comments, hopefully by tomorrow.

En Cristo,

Fr. Steven